Cyberpunk 2077 will end up regarded as a genre-defining game, but not in the way the marketing would have you believe. It’s not the next-generation open-world RPG I expected. It’s not really a looter shooter, either. It’s more a cinematic experience where you, the player, are the co-star in an A-list actor’s interactive production. At its best, Cyberpunk is a cinematic experience played out across the gorgeous, gritty backdrop of Night City.
tl;dr: did you grow up making jokes about hacking the Gibson? If so, you’ll like this game. Read on to see why.
Caveat to this mini-review: I’m playing on PC rather than a last-gen console, so bugs and performance issues were all tolerable for me.
Cyberpunk liberally borrows ideas and systems from other games. You can certainly see the influence of other open-world RPGS, from The Witcher to Fallout to Grand Theft Auto. What the different systems lack in originality, they make up for in overall fun. They all hang together well enough that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Where Cyberpunk really excels is its integration with Keanu. He plays a major role in the main story, of course, but he also turns up on many side quests and adds pithy commentary. His role is a key part of the game’s lore and of the playing experience, and it comes with all the weight of Johnny Mnemonic, John Wick, and Neo behind it. We’ve seen good storytelling in other games, but nothing that blends action cinema and action gaming like this.
The side gigs and side characters are well done. You will come to love Jackie, Panam, and Judy. Probably more that I haven’t met yet. There are some really well-executed emotional turns in there, too.
There are multiple possible playing styles available. I started with the idea that I would play as a stealthy, katana-wielding ninja (channeling my inner Snow Crash), but I found the hacking to be so fun that switched gears to quickhacks and a tech pistol. There are also options to play as a cyber-enhanced Wolverine, complete with giant retractable claws. Or as long-distance sniper who can shoot through walls. Or a grenade lobbing pyromaniac.
At its worst, Cyberpunk is a buggy, repetitive grind to raise a few thousand eddies (eurodollars) for your next upgrade. I have had NPCs disappear mid-quest, I’ve hopped through a window and out of the world, and I’ve had special effects from some NPCs stick around after they should have faded. All these were fixed by exiting and reloading the game, but they were annoying all the same.
While leveling your character increases your power, you also need to enhance your cybernetic options, and that means collecting a whole pile of eddies. The scripted side gigs and side quests are engaging and just as fun as the main story, but they don’t pay enough to get that legendary operating system or those double-jump legs in a timely manner. And Soulkiller forbid you want to respec your perks; that costs a cool 100k eddies. A resource grind is pretty typical for RPGs, but no less annoying when the world is washed in neon.
Cyberpunk is a violent game. While you can get through much of it as a non-violent player, the inherent violence of the world is inescapable. Night City is a dark, treacherous place full of terrible people doing terrible things. It’s also full of nudity and sex. I’m not opposed to there being sex in video games, but I am not impressed with how they usually handle it, and Cyberpunk is not an exception. It’s mostly ham-handed fantasy with a smattering of unnecessary violence. But hey, you get to choose your character’s penis size, which is a nice change of pace from the more-typical choosing of breast size.
On balance, I like the game. The good outweighs the bad, and much of the bad feels as if it will be patched over the coming weeks. The game really shines with the story and movie star intersection. I don’t want to say Cyberpunk is a turning point in game/movie interaction, but it certainly feels as if has let the genie out of the bottle, and I’m betting we’ll see more of a blend of games and cinema in the future. Add VR to the mix, and the next generation of entertainment will really have arrived. There’s a famous line from William Gibson, the father of the cyberpunk genre, that says “The future is already here–it’s just not evenly distributed.” Cyberpunk 2077 makes that feel true in a way few games have previously.
–Begin Lessons Learned–
Money is important! (So say we all.) There’s a gimmick for making money fast, too. You can buy soda cans from the 10 eddie machines, disassemble them, and sell the components for far more than the cans cost. It’s a little tedious, but it makes eddies fast. I won’t be shocked if this is changed in one of the upcoming patches. If you want to take advantage until then, head to the ripperdoc in Watson’s Northside for easy farming. There’s a collection of vending machines out front.
Once you have a stack of eddies, buy yourself something nice. Cyberpunk as a genre goes hand in hand with body modification, and Cyberpunk the game leans in on it. You can–and should–upgrade yourself. You’ll need some street cred to get the better choices, and I’d wait until you hit a street cred of 12 to get the legendary operating system at the Kabuki Market ripperdoc, though there are cheaper (and less reputation-intensive) options, too. Once you upgrade, hacking really takes off. You can also upgrade your personal cybernetics. The double-jump leg implants are a nice quality of life improvement.
You’ll want to put at least 6 into Tech to help with opening doors.
There’s a perk that allows you to automatically disassemble junk loot. This means you disassemble some stuff that would sell for 750 eddies, so you might want to skip it. I took it and made up the money by recycling soda cans.
Motorcycles are great. They steer better than the cars, and you can lane split.
As mentioned above, there are many useful weapon options. I loved going crazy with hacks. Upgrade your quickhacks at ripperdocs and netrunners, and you, too, can take down an entire building from the sidewalk outside.
The game will glitch. Save, exit, and reload when it does. That has gotten me around all issues so far.
Quicksave (F5 on PC) is your friend. Use it liberally. I haven’t noticed any performance impact from it.
Happy hacking, chooms.